My Friend Nancy Makes it to Film
By Jeff Salter
Of all the Guest Foxes and Guest Hounds I’ve hosted over these 7.5 years at 4F1H, one of my all-time favorites was Nancy Naigle, whom I first met about five years ago in Cincinnati at the Lori Foster’s Reader/Author Get-Together.
Just this past week I learned that two of Nancy’s novels are being made into movies for the Hallmark Channel and will be aired on Nov. 3 [Christmas Joy] and Nov. 20 [Hope at Christmas]. Naturally, I wanted to tackle a very busy Nancy long enough to get more information from her.
This particular week, I think she’s a bit under the weather, so be patient as she responds to your comments and questions.
USA Today bestselling author Nancy Naigle writes small-town love stories and women’s fiction. In 2018 two of her novels, Christmas Joy and Hope at Christmas, became Hallmark Original Movies.
Nancy devotes her time to writing, trail riding, and the occasional spa day with friends. A native of Virginia Beach, she now calls North Carolina home.
Nancy’s books are available through most online retailers in paperback, digital, and audio formats. Download a free series checklist from her website. www.NancyNaigle.com
- How (and when) did you learn your novels had been selected for conversion to screenplays and productions on the Hallmark Channel? What was your reaction?
[** NANCY **] — Christmas Joy was optioned by Crown Media in March of 2017. I’ve always been a huge Hallmark fan so the day I got the call from my agent with the news is one I’ll never forget, but I also knew that the odds of a film being optioned going to production was slim so I tried to keep my wits about me. That fall Hope at Christmas was optioned, too. It was a wonderful sense of validation that I was hitting the mark with the themes and types of books I’d wanted to write. I’d set out to write books that were wholesome stories set in inviting small towns that were so heartwarming that friends would want to share them with others. I honestly just wanted to write simple stories that would give frazzled hard-working gals a break from the anxiety of work, family and financials. I feel like Hallmark embodies all of that with their programming. A nod from Hallmark was like being at the top of Santa’s nice list. Fast forward to the spring of 2018 when Christmas Joy moved to production—I was almost afraid to say anything for fear that I might wake up and realize I’d dreamed the whole thing.
- I’ll bet every author has day-dreamed about which actors and actresses might be good in the roles of their heroes and heroines. But you’ve actually gotten to SEE the individuals bringing your characters to life. How did they measure up to your expectations or wishes?
[** NANCY **] — If you opened the Scrivener files of Christmas Joy you’d see that the pictures of the actors I’d envisioned for Christmas Joy were Candace Cameron Bure (a picture of her with a pretty side-braid) and Ben Zorn from The Bachelorette season with Kaitlyn. It’s always easier for me to keep the character consistency right when I have a real person in mind while writing. I love the matchup of Matt Long who plays the role of Ben, and Danielle Panabaker (the Flash) as Joy. They have an awesome natural banter that is as fun as I’d envisioned it. I love, too, that we’re seeing some fresh faces in these movies. I personally never tire of my favorite Hallmark actors, but I know there’s plenty of grumbling out there about it. For Hope at Christmas I had the picture of the stars from A Country Wedding, Jesse Metcalfe and Autumn Reeser, on my wall. Ryan Paevey from General Hospital was cast as Mac. Of course, most Hallmarkies will recognize him as Mr. Darcy. The beautiful Scottie Thompson plays the role of Sydney. She’s movie star stunning, but somehow pulled off that girl-next-door mom role perfectly. Hallmark knows how to pull the right talent together.
- Were you allowed to see and/or provide feedback on the screenplay? Or was that – as I suspect – completely out of your hands?
[** NANCY **] — The screenplay was completely out of my hands, and that was fine with me. Writing a screenplay is a totally different skillset. I love Hallmark, and I wasn’t the least bit worried about how the movies would turn out.
- Something I often read in interviews (with authors who’ve had a movie based on their novel) is that the film result is so different from their story. How closely did your two turn out?
[** NANCY **] — First of all, a script for a Hallmark movie has about 20,000 words. These novels are about 90,000 words long. There’s no way all the plot threads were going to end up in the movie. I suspect that’s why most people think the books are better than the movie, simply because there’s more story. In short, yes the stories resemble the tag line for the books, but the tag line is very high level.
- Were there any particular scenes (or characters) from your novels that – because of the time element of the broadcast slot – had to be omitted or glossed over? Does the movie story flow reasonably well without that material?
[** NANCY **] — Totally! For example, Christmas Joy followed the storyline, but without Molly. I had fun writing the little girl Molly in that novel, and the Christmas cookie scene where she, Joy and Ben share the moment about “snowflake kisses” from the flour is one of my very favorite scenes in the book. Neither Molly nor that scene made it into the movie, but the movie still captures the essence of the story without her. The day I walked onto set they were shooting the scene where Ben accidentally breaks the special Christmas ornament. That scene was so perfectly shot that I sat there and cried. I think readers are going to be very satisfied with what Hallmark has done in keeping with the setting and transformations of Joy and Ben in Christmas Joy. Hope at Christmas had a lot of character changes. The mayor is married in the book, not in the movie. Miss Bea is healthy and ready for adventure in the movie. In the book Sydney and Mac meet by accident…literally…when she backs her car into his truck. In the movie they knew each other as kids. Mac is still a high school teacher but he’s not a dad in the movie, and rather than having been the “secret” town Santa since the year his son was born, he kind of gets duped into having to be Santa in the movie. Sydney’s friend from her childhood in Hopewell, Diane, is now Mac’s sister. Now…all that character shuffling aside, the main story still holds even though readers will most definitely notice the differences, but still love all the elements that made this a heartwarming story to begin with.
- I’ve heard that lots of the TV-movies are filmed in Canada. Were you actually able to visit the set at any point? If so, what was that like?
[** NANCY **] — Both of these movies were filmed in Vancouver. I visited the set of Christmas Joy in May. It was very emotional for me. I think I spent most of the time crying as I watched Danielle Panabaker and Matt Long bring scenes that had only been in my head to life right in front of me. The mood, actions, even the cadence of their words were so right that I couldn’t keep myself composed. Everyone on set was so welcoming. It’s amazing to watch so many people working to make each tiny scene come to life. It was pretty cool to be there on a perfect spring day with temperatures hovering in the mid-seventies with fake snow being blown all around me. Magical, that’s what it was like. I just got back this weekend from a week on the set of Hope at Christmas. I knew what to expect this time so I wasn’t so teary-eyed, but my cheeks still hurt from the constant smiling. I wouldn’t have changed a thing. The sets were so well done, and the actors did a great job. Everyone did. There were a lot of background actors on the set of Hope at Christmas too since there were so many group scenes which made for a lot of moving parts. I learned so much by quietly observing as they brought the story alive.
- If we happen to miss the Nov. 3 and Nov. 20 debuts, will we have other chances to see these on the Hallmark Channel?
[** NANCY **] — Oh yes, you can count on it. Christmas Joy will air several times on Hallmark Channel during Countdown to Christmas. Hope at Christmas will be on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries as part of the Miracles of Christmas programming.
- Any more of your novels set to be filmed? How much can you tell us at this point?
[** NANCY **] — I don’t have any news to share right now, but I will definitely keep you posted. This has been one awesome year for me. I still don’t think it will all really sink in until I watch the movies with y’all this fall.
Buy link – http://www.nancynaigle.com/christmas-joy
Hope at Christmas
Buy Link – http://www.nancynaigle.com/hopeatchristmas
And my new release coming Oct. 18 is Dear Santa. A retelling of You’ve Got Mail set on the coast of North Carolina as two Christmas shop rivals find their way to an unexpected Happily-Ever-After. http://www.nancynaigle.com/dearsanta
You’ll want to go back and investigate Nancy’s previous appearance on my Hound Day blog:
[JLS # 402]